Saturday, June 14, 2014


A Cockroach Promotion and More!

Q: Everybody give a tumbler on a packet of tea and a comb on a packet of sugar. Is there any one promotion you have found more exciting than all this inane stuff?
-Joel R Shenvi, Mumbai

A: Joel, I am as tired of these inane promotions as you are. Promotions are meant to create  a positive blip for sale volume. Here is one from the mother market of them all, the United States of America.
The American consumer is a typical 5th generation marketed-to consumer. Totally tired of marketing. Totally tired of advertising. And totally tired of every consumer promotion there is.

Milwaukee saw an exciting re-invention of the consumer promotion. A company that manufactures an insect repellant and insect-killer in spray form had a marketing problem. Sales were down. The times were tough.

The promotion the company thought of was an exciting one. Five healthy American cockroaches were caught and stunned. Their bellies were bar-coded. When these healthy American cockroaches regained their presence, they were let loose into the drainage system of Milwaukee.

The next morning saw an ad in the paper announcing a USD 50,000 reward for anyone who brought in one of the bar-coded cockroaches dead or alive. The next day saw a run on the shops. Everyone wanted an insect killer spray. Stocks of every company selling one was liquidated off the shelves.

Milwaukee saw a kind of the Great American Gold Rush. Kids went about with canisters to kill. Office-goers carried a spray in their jackets and went hunting for USD 50,000 in their office loos.

A killer promotion for sure.

Q: How has luxury retail been evolving in India? Is there a fair bit of traction in this space?
-R L Sinha, Kolkata.

A: Sinha-Da, luxury-retail space in the country was initially spurred into action by the space offered by 5-star properties in India. This meant that luxury brands could afford a presence in some 6-10 luxury hotel lobbies and shopping galleries in some 6 big cities. This restricted presence. Anyone with a desire to partake of the offering of these brand labels made a beeline to these properties. Therefore, you had consumers from as far as Hoshiarpur and Bhatinda going all the way to Delhi  to buy their Swarovski crystals.

At best, the most popular luxury brands had access to some 20 plus stores in India. Not anymore. And that’s evolution for sure.

Today, this paradigm is broken. The emergence of the Mall has led the way.  Brands have even ventured out to the High Streets, braving very un-differentiated segments of shoppers, many of them who walk by in by the awe of the brand, and many who walk in and get frightened by the price tags altogether.

Today, a luxury brand has a wider presence across channels. Across the trade channel of the 5 star hotel property, the Premium Mall, the Popular Mall, the High Street and the On-line store. The niche is widening its marketing wedge. There is plenty of traction in this space as India affords more and more, luxury retail grows.

Q: I am on the verge of bringing out a range of ready-to-eat foods for the Indian market. Can I depend solely on the power of organized retail to make it big, or do I need to venture out deeper?
-Rohit Kapashi, New Delhi

A: Rohit, depends totally on the ambition of your venture.   If your ambition is to dominate the market you enter, then the use of organised retail is just not enough. Organised retail is very small in the country. Of the total value of Indian retail, only 7.1 per cent comes from organised retail.

Brands have to rely on the large, dissipated and very vibrant kirana category for their real vibrant sales. In terms of distribution mix, urban markets need a skew of organised and un-organised. In rural markets, the choice is largely through un-organised retail, village shandies and mandis, and the local ration shops, just as there is the trend of the emerging discount chain in rural.

Q: Modern retailers are launching their own brands that compete with other older brands in the market. Is this fair? And how does it hurt established brands.
-Rohini Sampathkumar, Bangalore.

A: Rohini, first things first. There is nothing that is really unfair in the market process of an organized retailer offering his/her own brands on sale. Most of the time, what is offered is great quality stuff at 30 per cent cheaper prices even. The only missing element is  the big brand label. This is certainly a threat to the organised old brand in the market. But then, everyone must compete. At the end of this long game of competition, the consumer will hopefully be the ultimate winner.
These are DOBs(dealers own brands) or Private labels. They are small in number as of now. Most sell private label brands within their organised retail store formats. Some will venture out to sell through the mass chain ultimately. This is a tough task though. The core competence of such private labels is largely show-cased within the private space of the store that spawns it. FMCG distribution and management is a different core competence altogether. Transgressing and owning this competence is a tough task.

Q: Whether the market is on the up-turn or down-tick, there is always a value-consumer out there. Am I right? And how does she operate?
-Anand Abirami, Chennai.

A: Anand, you are right. Every market has its own proportion of value-seekers. As consumers age in terms of being consumers itself, the value dimension does get blunted and brand imagery takes over.
 This value consumer is the one who spends the most time in your super-markets. He/she is down-grading on brands. At times this is a brand to brand down-grade and at times it is a pack-to-pack down-grade within the same brand. From larger packs to smaller.

In addition to this, consumer demand is getting stretched out over lower-cost variants. For example, in the automotive category we have consumers who have had 2-box cars  for all of 8 years and are looking to change. When they re-enter the market to change, typically they would come in with aspiration to upgrade to a 3-box version(sedans). However, during the last  slow-down in India, we have had customers actually going in yet again for a 2-box car replacement. This means they want to fork out less as an outlay in tough times.

What this does is that it does not only kill the sale of a 3-box car which would have otherwise happened in the short-term, but in the medium to long-term, it postpones this family from being in the 3-box car market for a cycle time which might be as short as 6-years in India or right up to 10-years in a strong value-delivery seeking family. This is a hit not for one quarter but for successive streams of quarters.

The consumer is still brand-conscious, but this brand-consciousness operates within a price-format that is value-defining.

In terms of consumption behavior, the consumer is much more careful in terms of usage. There is no surplus usage. There is less squandering and more real usage. The toothpaste is used with care and the tube is squeezed out till the last bit is out with a 'chimta'(tong) in the bathroom, just as the cake of soap is used till its last bits are squeezed. Hotel soaps and shampoos picked up on travels by the man or woman of the house  are being used as well to optimal levels.

For this type of consumer, value is in. Wastage is out.


Q: Do brands over-estimate the consumer's spending capacities? Are there examples of fault-lines across categories?
-Devika lahiri, New Delhi

A:Devika, the fault-lines run long and deep. Apparel is a classic case. The gung-ho nature of the economy, the fact that the demographics of this nation are young-skewed, and the Outdoor nature of the young led apparel marketers to go a bit too gung-ho in their attitude as well recently.

This has seen inventory pile-ups, styles laid out in the market and in pricing decisions as well. Every business plan of many an apparel maker is in the doldrums due to this.

FMCGs did wrong as well. Many focused on larger volume and value packs. The small packs were ignored. Low unit and low value packs literally vacated many markets. This was an undoing for the brands in tough times when consumers want to move to smaller packs. Companies like Britannia however re-invented the wheel in time. The small-pack focus of the company is poised to reap rich dividends.

One read the market, the economy and its peoples wrong in a cautionary recession.

Q: Everything is out to be tried. A new kind of try-marketing is out here where everyone is bending backwards in offering trails. Is this is a new marketing ploy?
-Revathi P Mudra, Bhubaneswar.

A: Revathi, this is a all about brands wanting to get tactile with their consumers. The idea is a simple one. The best way to sell anything to anyone is to show them the brand. The next thing the consumer wants to do is touch the brand. The third thing would be to use the brand and check it out for its delivery claims.

In many cases of products, the price of the product is prohibitive to allow a trial without purchase, therefore, low trials mean low buys. Marketers circumvent this by offering the free trail.

What is important to understand is the number of days of  trail or occasions of trial that is necessary for the product or service to be just right for adoption by the consumer. Once that is understood, the cost viability of the activity can be worked out.

For instance, for a  coffee brand to be adopted in a home, a total of a minimum 3 months of trail daily is necessary. This means that a competing brand should be able to work this right only if it is able to provide that deep a placement of its free stock. A simple one-time Rs.5 sachet free does not work. At best it is a very expensive waste.

The ability of the consumer to see, touch, feel and experience the product or service in all its brand and product sensorial aspects is the biggest advantage.

During a recession, this type of trail-offers spring up fast and strong. When there is not enough money to use on mass media advertising, ‘tryvertising’ becomes a very focused way of reaching consumers 1:1.

In recent months the US and Europe have seen a surge in tryvertising.

There are tryvertising websites that get you to register onto them with your database. Freebies are then sent to those registered and feedback is solicited. If you register on a couple of these websites and if you are sincere in your feedback giving mechanism, regularity and correctness, you can run an entire home on literally just this.

Q: I do believe agri-product branding is the biggest opportunity India has. Do you agree?
-Usha RR, Hyderabad
A: Usha, a whole-hearted yes. Agri-produce branding is pretty nascent in our country. The branding of sugar is a classic example. It has gone nowhere. The opportunity surely does lie here, in terrains such as these where we have had little success.

In the case of milk, each of the dairy co-operatives has done a yeoman task. Amul is one, but there are forty others in India who have done similar good work. The non-co-operative enterprises such as Heritage Foods have added to this effort.

The staples sector is far away from this movement. However, with the emergence of organized retail in India, a lot of action can be seen in this space.

Chains such as Reliance, the Aditya Birla Group, and others in this space will offer Private label brand sin staples. This will be the first big step into the branding of staples.

The agri product needs to fulfill the basic parameters of good quality and consistency on offer to be branded. Additionally, on procurement price, these products need to hold the line to be accepted as brands that are static price rather than brands that fluctuate their prices basis availability.

Q: What are the most important skills one needs to have in advertising professional?
-Josh KR, Tiruvalla.
A: Josh, many many things really.
The ability to emote with the needs of a brand is a very important trait. The ability to feel the robustness of a brand in the market-place is another. It is important for advertising professionals to step into the market and smell the sweat of the alien consumer. Most advertising men and women find this difficult.

Advertising people need to start living the life of  the ordinary man and woman on the street. Most don’t. It is important to travel in the same buses that common people travel in. It is important to watch the same tele-serials that common people watch. There is a big disconnect here. The common man on the street watches “Comedy Nights with Kapil” and the advertising man is hooked to HBO.

Living like the consumer and breathing the same air the consumer of the brand you advertise for, is an imperative to success. It is an imperative to build emotional connect, strategic content and ultimate long-standing creatives of creative and strategic merit.

Q: With the large number of mobile handsets in the country, where is the media opportunity on mobiles going?

-R K Jena, New Delhi.

A: Jena-ji, as of speaking now, we have a total of 914 million mobile phones in this country. We are still growing at 11 million phones plus per month. Most of the  new connections are coming from our small towns and villages. I do believe this is a big revolution that has occurred in India. Homes in rural areas which do not have a Television set even, today have mobile phones. In many ways every telco is seeding a medium within every Indian home. A medium that is personal, involved and involving.

The mobile phone is an excellent medium to use. Creativity in its use is yet to arrive. As newer ideas emerge, this will become a big medium to capitalize upon.

The mobile phone is closer to you than anyone else. It is on 24 X 7, is kept closest to your heart in your shirt pocket, is compelling in its demands as you rush to read every message that beeps on it. It is demanding even more when the call rings. You leave everything else and rush to pick it up. It is a media that packs a lot of expectation. Every call that rings can bring a promise to you that enhances your value, your life and your economic well being. The mobile phone is a promise.

The mobile is better than your spouse as well. It demands nothing. It does not fight. It listens to you all the time. It is only as intrusive as you want and allow it to be. And you can shut it off when you want to. A great medium for sure.

The mobile phone is a promising media. A media whose promise is yet to be exploited. There is an ideas-drought here. If you carry that brilliant idea and patent, now is the time to attack the medium in India.

 Q: Brands are jumping onto social media marketing in too much of a hurry. Is this not a double-edged sword of a medium?
-Devaki M, Ludhiana

A: Devaki, a double-edged sword for sure. Totally. But this is good. Brands must ride the good with the bad. Social media is hopefully run by real consumers more than planted and paid consumers. If that is true, true democracy will prevail in marketing as social mediums tell brands what they must hear, but were hitherto too distant to hear.

 I do not believe negative WOM can carry too far if there is no fire to stoke this negativity at all. Social networks are good because they are reasonably fair. They are democratic. In that manner a spade will be called a spade and not a sickle or a gun.

The problem with Marketing and marketers today is that all of us want only the positive. We shun the negative.

It is important to understand that the consumer is a positive and a negative person packaged into one body , mind and soul altogether. The Yin and Yang will be at play forever.

No brand can expect its image and experience to be positive forever. Further still, no brand can expect its image to be ten on ten positive. There will come times when consumers will want to articulate the negative as well. In such times, your brand will be 9 points positive and 1 point negative. This is good for the brand.

Brands must learn that they must ape the lives of their consumers. No consumer is perfect. The perfect being is a myth. Similarly, the perfect brand is and should be engineered to be a myth. If your brand is too perfect, sit down and re-engineer the brand. The brand must be equally fallible and real and alive as is the consumer. Consumers forgive small faults. I go the extent to say that brands that have perfect offerings must engineer small faults that will come by time and again. Brands must get as real as their consumers are.

Negative impact of WOM is a reality that brands must be prepared for. In a world that is democratic you cannot have brands that are autocratic in their orientations. Brands need to step off the pedestals they live upon. Social media is a great step-down ladder for brands.

Q: I have a big problem with shop-lifters.  Mine is a small self-serve outlet for gifts, but my losses on this count are big. Of the 200 customers I get every day, a minimum 20 must be robbing me.  Is there gyan here?
-Rohit Ram, Delhi.

A: Rohit, that’s a large number of shop-lifters in your gift shop. There is something surely very wrong. Ideally, your shop-lifers must not be more than 4 on 200. Even that is a big number.  Sadly those who shop-lift pick the more expensive items, and therefore the value of shop-lift goes up. You must be closing shop soon.

A shop-lifter is normally a very young person. At times children in their teens. College students and young people at large. Look at them keenly through those close-circuit cameras keenly. They are shifty-eyed, are spotted wandering aimlessly, visit the same shop many times, but buy very little. Spot them in groups as well. Groups that have wandered off a college or school even.

       Add to this the solo performer. The bored young and old person alike who meanders and hangs around a bit too long in a shop. Profiling your customer carefully and keeping a keen watch, and catching a few and making great examples of those catches is a way to go. Name and shame publicly for one.

Apart from CC TV, investing in shop-wardens in plainclothes who hang around the store without looking like a part of the store, is a good thing to invest in. Further, shop-lifting time-slots can be identified by the trend of catching people on the job. Intensify the vigil in these time-slots.

       Apart from Sensomats and other such pieces of technology, nothing like the sharp human eye to assess and catch the culprit.

       Take care on aspects of store-design and layout of merchandise as well. Positioning of those items that are really small and liftable very close to the cash-counters is what many outlets attempt. This however spoils the store at large and affects the spontaneity of store design and layout. However, worth a try.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Of Sugar and Film Stars!

Film-star or Marketing-star?

By Harish Bijoor
Q: Film stars today dominate not only the celluloid screen, but also the small screen. They are on the big screen with movies and on the small-screen with brand advertisements and more. Is the film star a marketing star as well today?
-Ratna Ganguly, Kolkata.

A: Ratna, film stars today are not only film stars. They are more. They are social evangelists. They are event managers. They are marketing stars as well, as you put it.

It is common knowledge today that some actors make more money on the brand endorsement circuit than they do with their films. Add to it this new trend of selling personal lives and personal life stances through products and services to it.

Film stars today understand themselves to be consumable products. Their fans and to-be-fans are waiting to consume them and their every word. They therefore monetize their abilities, their pull-factor and their credibility scores with fans. There are actors who therefore employ full-time brand-managers whose sole job is to monetize every opportunity there is to monetize. Film stars also fully understand that if one star is not willing to do something, another is. Film stars are also aware that their charm will last for a while. This time is a window that is to opened and monetized: fast and quick. So never mind if a product is a pregnancy kit, a hearing aid or whatever!

The benefit of such exercises is totally monetary to the star. Along with monetary benefit, there is a non-benefit attached to the star as well. Film stars in fact lose credibility when they endorse brands that lack a fit with their persona. The consumer is a fool. Not a bloody fool! Let's remember, consumers are innocent, but not gullible.

Q: Is India the delight of a sugar manufacturer? I have never seen so much of sweet stuff marketed anywhere in the world as much as in India. Am I right?
-Sophie McCullough, Mumbai

A: Sophie, you are absolutely correct on this one. We are a sweet country. And a sweet people to boot.
The Indian at large is a tooth. A sweet tooth. As I keep saying, if I was to symbolize an Indian in picture format, a large tooth and a syrupy yellow-orange Motichur laddoo would tell it all as the story of a nation with a sweet tooth!

I do believe our sweet fixation stems from the days of yore. Our mythology is loaded with sweet stuff. Our every region has hundreds of varieties of sweets. Every region has a variation on it. Add to it the fact that we are a nation of festivals. We celebrate a total of 169 large festivals in India. And every festival is typically signified by a large quantum of sweets and flowers. The sweet is a fundamental corner-stone of every festival we celebrate. Does not matter what religion it is all about, it is about sweets of every kind. The wedding is yet another occasion for a splurge on sweets. Every child that is born means a lot of sweets around. Every new job means laddoos or pedas all around. Sweets abound in our lives.

India is therefore a very sweet nation. A nation that consumes sugar and oil in large quantum.  No wonder then that we are the diabetic capital of the world as well, with some 36 million diabetics of a total count of 145 million worldwide. We must also be closely inching to he status of cholesterol capital of the world as well.

Our sugar fixation is therefore a big opportunity for marketers of sweets, candies, gum, ice cream, frozen desserts of every kind, tinned offerings of sweets, chocolates and more. India needs no evangelical selling of the sweet product. If the price and taste fits, the market is ready. Marketers in this category therefore enjoy insulated volumes.

The clear opportunity for marketers of chocolates and candies is the replacement opportunity offered by the large base of traditional sweets. The consumption opportunities are many and organized. Festivals, weddings, birthdays, celebrations and such consumption occasions for the traditional sweets are consumption replacement occasions for the chocolate and candy product at large.  The future is therefore bright.

Q: If brands need to create success, what do they need to keep in mind?
-Shipra Matthew, Bangalore.

A: Shipra, this is a big question that deserves a big and long answer.
However, very crisply, brands need to keep many things in mind.
The first is an intact product-equity. This typically means that the product does not and has not made compromises over the years in its taste, composition and offering. Not many brands can claim this even in the Indian context today. I do believe if you do maintain product-equity intact, you are well taken off in the long term. Yes, in the short-term you might end up spending that much more in terms of product input costs, but in the long-term, you are paid off. In sheer brand-equity terms.

The second key aspect is that of brand equity. It is important to ensure that the brand proposition is showcased with consistency and integrity in the base line. If you do this right, you have a solid and positive brand-equity you can leverage in the future.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


Monday, March 31, 2014


Branding Foods And Women Magnets

Women-magnet Deodorants

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What’s this deodorant controversy all about? Why does the I&B Ministry have to step in?
-Zarine Wadhwa, Mumbai

A: Zarine, to the un-initiated, we need to set the background right.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has stepped in and has termed “indecent and vulgar” a whole plethora of deodorant category advertisements currently being shown on television. The Centre has asked the ASCI to either get them modified or take the ads off the air. The brands named: Wild Stone, Addiction, New Axe Googly, Zatak Axe, Set Wet, Denver and Axe.

If you have been a viewer of mass media television, you have certainly seen the tone, tenor and decibel of deodorant category advertising. Something has taken over this category and any and every advertisement in the category seems to be promoting the category more or less like a woman-magnet item of desire. Deodorants today seem to be marketed as pheromones that seem to have the power to attract the opposite sex. Thus far, it has remained in the terrain of the opposite sex. But then marketers are creative people. You never know what will follow.

All this seems to have caused some degree of societal consternation and churn. There sure have been complaints, and the Ministry of I&B has had to take note of this. The last time this happened, was in the case of the under-wear and banian category where Lux and Amul (not the soap and not the butter) had a nation abuzz, with questions being raised in the house of Parliament.

Why does the Ministry have to get into it? Very simply because these advertisements seem to have stoked all kinds of questions in society at large. We must remember that television is a mass medium consumed by the masses. Advertising needs to be restrained enough not to irritate segments that comprise this mass medium viewership. Questions such as these will keep coming up. And advertisers and marketers need to show restraint.

If advertisers use the niche medium of the digital such as the Internet for such advertising it is fine, but when the mass medium is used, one is bound to face questions.
Mass mediums are just too mass for such pieces of communication.

Q: Are the summer months a great time for television channels in terms of viewership?
-Rajat Panda, Kolkata

A: Rajat, yes, there most certainly is some meaning in what you say.
Summer means summer holidays as well. Summer holidays means a sudden surge in television viewership. This goes not only for the student audience of this country, but goes in general for the mothers of this country as well. And a smaller set of fathers.
As most homes in the country are small homes with a common drawing room television set, we need to appreciate that in most homes the drawing room doubles up as the study room for the child at home as well. During exam times, more often than not, the mother equally sacrifices watching television, in a bid to act as a conducive parent who helps the child at home study.

Summer vacations mean vacations for the mother and child alike. This causes the surge. In more ways than one, the surge is sudden and peaks. Peaks because there is an urge to make up for lost television hours.

Q: Quite a few brands seem to be going in for disruption in their advertising formats. Why? And how many such formats exist?
-PP Ramani, Bangalore

A: Ramani, I typically classify disruption as follows:

1. Disruption due to boredom/fatigue.

2. Disruption due to competitive pressure.

3. Disruption for the sake of disruption.

Marketers today are indulging in disruption formats that span all these three. Typically, disruption due to boredom/fatigue and disruption due to competitive pressure are formats that can be appreciated. The third is really the one that needs to be discouraged, as it leads nowhere, except resulting in some degree of brand activity, some degree of notice ability for both the brand and brand manager alike.

When a brand wants and seeks out change, it disrupts. It can disrupt either its APS (Advertising Positioning Statement), its big idea or its BPS (Brand Positioning Statement). The worst is when a brand tampers with its BPS.

Brands that attempt to do this do it when they are losing shares and when they believe the basic brand proposition is not living with the times. Bru changed its basic proposition from "Closest in taste to filter coffee". It believed this does not work as a BPS anymore in a new and modern society where coffee is not coffee anymore! Its beyond!

When a brand is stagnant in its volumes and when a brand is really nudging the downward curve, one needs to think disruption. But think disruption only after you are totally convinced that it is the only thing to do. Disruption for the sake of disruption is riding the hobbyhorse of branding a bit too casually.

Q: How does one brand food products to advantage?

-Mahesh Nadkarni, Pune

A: Mahesh, the question is just too generic. I will give an equally generic answer.

My simple take: God is in the taste. Create a tasty product, and people will rush in from every corner to buy. The classic example is the Shrusberry biscuit of Kayani bakery in the city you live in, Pune.   Making a bakery product a planned purchase item is related to how well the taste can actually propel a consumer to make an articulated choice that can travel distances. And this taste travels long distances for sure, as people from all over the world pack and take.

On consumption formats that can be tweaked to make a product run, I have an idea.
This is an idea whose time has come. Cross-positioning an eatable product with a beverage is a great idea to use here. Take the case of the US. Bagel(a bakery product) goes with coffee. Take Europe: Donuts go with coffee. Some QSR chains such as Dunkin Donuts have made on-the-go a part of their cutting edge differentiated business model itself. And it works.

As India becomes more on-the-go oriented with working couples, breakfast itself is going to become an on-the-go item, as might lunch. For these two occasions, one needs to position the bakery product as a quick and healthy option. It needs the company of a beverage though. A fruit-juice and a muffin might just be right as well. It’s all in the marketing.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

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Out of Home?

Q: Why is the Out Of Home (OOH) industry gaining so much of moneys and attention? What’s the new change here? Who uses it most?
-Raveen Kumar, Mumbai

A: Raveeen, India and the Indian at large are getting that much more on-the-go. With more and more homes becoming twin-income households, both husband and wife are on the go. Add to it children on the go all the while, to school and college. Add to it the fact that people are indulging in long commutes, as it is getting more and more expensive for people to live close to the work places. All this is creating outdoor eyeballs on the go! The marketer is therefore looking at OOH with a new vision set altogether. This is a sector slated to boom exponentially.

In terms of economy and money spent on the medium, the medium delivers more than it eats in terms of money. This is a big draw as well.

The biggest user of this medium today is the media and entertainment industry. As much as 72 per cent of all OOH is media and entertainment industry related. This perks up even more as you get into the bigger cities. For the television medium for instance, Outdoor is a big draw. It offers a contra-medium to stare out of. Television is totally indoors just as OOH is totally Outdoors!

OOH is slated to increase its relevance to the marketer and consumer in specific. As technology makes inroads into the medium, expect Mini NY Times Squares’ to emerge all over the big cities of India.

Q: Is there not a coffee over-load in the country today? With Starbucks slated to enter as well, is the market not already cluttered?
-Shilpi Jain, Ahmedabad

Shilpi, more the merrier.

As of today, as per a research prognosis put together by me, India can take a total of 5400 Cafes. However, as of this point of reply, there are only 2006 Cafes in India. The market gap is therefore wide and deep. Wide in terms of the number of Cafes this country of 1.2 Billion people can absorb, and deep in terms of coffee offerings that will deepen consumption from the current frivolous levels to a deeper degree, as we see in the markets of the US and UK and parts of Scandinavia and Europe.

The entry of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts will energize the India Cafe market. There is bound to be a deeper degree of investment in terms of sweat and money by the existing Cafe players. This itself will help broaden and deepen the base for coffee in India. Add to it the different formats that will enter. Dunkin Donuts worldwide is a pick-and-go play. On-the-go coffee consumption is still nascent territory in India despite the population being peripatetic within cities. This will add more zing.

Players are investing right, and with a great degree of intelligence. Carpet-bombing of a market with density of outlets helps in dense market economies. Expect to have as many as 21 Cafes in 1 sq kilometer space, just as you will have just 5 Cafes in a 50 Km space. Market density and propensity to consume, as well as affordability indices will govern this density of outlet seeding.

The challenges to all Café players are all about managing costs, just as one strives to deliver the best International standard of Cafe experience. This is the biggest challenge for all of them, irrespective whether they are a ‘desi’ offering or International.

Q: There is this new trend of studying personalities such as Dhoni as a leader and movies as case studies in management institutes. Does this help and work? Is this all not a gimmick to get publicity in media?
-Dhyan Nanjappa, Delhi

A: Dhyan, you certainly seem to have had an over-dose of this. There is gimmick-angst in your question.

In reality, there is traditional management theory and then there is Pop Management theory.  Studying leadership styles through personas such as Dhoni or a Sachin or for that matter an Aamir Khan through his personification of Mangal Pandey, are all part of new age Pop Management theory.

The fact remains that very un-related people can help us learn styles of leadership. One can learn leadership from a beggar equally, as much as from a successful cricket captain such as Dhoni. Most folk however gravitate towards those who are overtly successful than those who are covertly successful. Few study leadership from a beggar on the street-corner.

The Corporate world can derive lessons for sure from everyone and everywhere. One can learn valuable management lessons from the virtual world of Twitter, just as you can from the real world of Dhoni. What is important is how you co-relate information and as to how you link one cog to another wheel.
We have many Dhonis in the corporate world even today, just as we have enough Chanakyas and enough Gandhis and enough Vinoba Bhaves. Every persona has a role, depending which part of the cyclical corporate environment we are going through.

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Saturday, August 03, 2013


Of Gold and Garments

Gold and the Man

By Harish Bijoor
Q: Gold ornaments are basically worn and flaunted by women. Why then this overt focus on the male brand ambassador by jewellery brands in India?
-Rohini Pillai, Tiruvannthapuram.

A: Rohini, though gold has always largely been about women, we need to remember that in most cases in traditional gold buying families, the decision maker for gold in terms of funding the buy is the man. He who funds, therefore wears the pants!  Sad and chauvinistic, but true.

Gold players have remembered this. In the south, male actors are a rage. Male actors command prices in south cinema that is a multiple of 10 to 20 versus women actors. Men therefore rule the roost in more ways than one, when it comes to the south and gold buys.

I do believe male stars add to the aura and help create awareness for the brands in question. The aura of the actor rubs off on the brand. This helps.

Further, television continues to be lead medium when it comes to reaching out to women. Print is read by less women than television is watched. The male star therefore rules on television for jewellery brands.

Q: How is the current retail franchise environment? Do garment brands  find big takers in this space?
-KK Morarka, New Delhi.

A: Morarka-saab, most certainly yes. The market is ready, and more importantly willing. Niche players in apparel and footwear will be welcomed. Brand offerings that will stand apart and somewhere between the offerings of a mass retailer such as Walmart at the bottom end, and a Louis Vuitton kind at the top end, will succeed in creating the differentiation a fashion oriented market craves for.

But remember,  nothing comes with ease in India. Marketers need to exhibit brand and retail savvy. Add to that patience, and you have a winning formula in this space.'

With FDI, the market opens up to variety. Much needed variety. FDI will open up different price segments on offer as well. Every price segment will have an international dog tag to carry and flaunt.

I do believe we will take off in this space. Our development will be slow in this space, but solid. Quite unlike the Chinese model of fast but dissipated!

Q: For a B2B enterprise, is social media a good tool to tinker with?
-Ravi Bhoopati, Hyderabad

A: Ravi, it is. Don’t just tinker with it as well, do more.

Social media is space that is occupied by one and all today. The population you find in social media has three avatars. One is a B2B avatar and the other is a B2C avatar and the third dimension is the C2C dimension.

The first dimension is when you as an employee within an organization is doing business with another company. The second is when you as a company are interacting with your customers, and the third is where you as a consumer are interacting with another consumer.

Social media space is filled with these three types of people. What is important to understand is that each one of us wears different hats at different times. We flip these hats seamlessly as well, from B2B to B2C to C2C and vice versa. Therefore, for a B2B enterprise social media campaigns are always good. They appeal to one and all.

B2B enterprises can deliver the business story seamlessly on social media, without the daunting walls of physical organizations and what they represent as behemoths in B2B space. An IOC talking to an ONGC can be that much more softer and seamless in social media space. Further, social media space is un-intrusive to the extent that it works at its own pace and its consumption is voluntary and not forced.

A B2B campaign that speaks level and 1:1 works best in this space. A campaign that softens the stance of the Business giant. A campaign that offers a window to the heart of the business, instead of a door to the commercial bank of the enterprise.

Remember however to keep some things in mind. Be careful that you talk 1:1. Don't talk top-down. Be soft. Be human. Be real.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

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Monday, April 01, 2013


The Elevator Pictch, the VC and Hot Late Night TV slots


The Elevator Pitch

By Harish Bijoor

Q: I am a start-up and have been told to make an elevator pitch. The VC has little time. What is the essence of an elevator pitch?
-Gubbi Sathish, Jamshedpur

A: Gubbi, let me say it crisply, in an elevator-pitch manner of writing.

An elevator pitch must pack a lot in little time. It must have the compelling consumer- need argument for a start. It must review and indicate what it will replace as habit. It should speak loud on the score of irreplacability and longevity of idea and concept. And finally it must have its profit argument in place.

Happy pitching.

Q: Is the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) the biggest enemy of marketing? Are we not wasting money on television advertising without knowing what is going where, and what is being zapped?
-Shekhar Khanna, Mumbai

A: Shekhar, most certainly yes. But this trend has been scented in the top niche of the viewing masses. The rest of the masses of viewership still remain profitable, and still want to watch advertising without zapping it.

Apart from DVR's proliferation of channels and the ubiquitous remote handset has caused for a generation of viewers that is promiscuous in its channel use. Boredom is worn on the sleeve, and zapping out of channels due to advertising ennui is a habit today. The person with the remote is normally the youngest one in the house as well, and the young are even more impatient than the old.

The young is what I call the I-Gen: the Impatient Generation. This generation's patience levels can be best amplified in all of 140-characters. Advertisers on television get the raw end of the stick when viewership is mixed, with family audiences that have the young and impatient viewer amidst it as well. Patience thrives better among solus older audiences.
The flip side of it says that if we make our advertising compelling and something that has something for everyone to watch and enjoy as well, this will not happen. At least not as much.

Q: Could you list out a set of things I must look out for when I pick a brand ambassador?
-Varun Mishra, Rohtak
A: Varun, brand ambassadors represent your brand and everything it stands for. Therefore, when picking a brand ambassador, pick with care. Show as much care as you do when you pick vegetables and fruits at the local market. If you still do that today.

See the ambassador, touch the ambassador, feel the ambassador, smell the ambassador and taste the ambassador. Not physically of course, but metaphorically for sure. All from your consumer perspective. Look for consumer fit as a compelling attribute. Not whom your girlfriend or wife likes, but whom your consumer group emotes with.

And do this not with your eyes alone, but see it through the eyes of your consumer always. Don't get excited by the fact that you have picked a celebrity of status and mass appeal. Go by what is required by your brand, and go with what the brand ambassador represents to your target segment consumer.

Brand ambassadors need to have stature, support of the consumer base your brand appeals to, aura to hold the audience interest and credibility to ensure repeat usage and purchase and more.

Q: The late-night slot on television is getting to look more and more exciting. It is getting hotter still with direct marketing companies going for the kill. How did it come by? Where is this going?
-Alok Bhaduria, Kolkata.

A: Alok, the genesis of this slot is in the business plan of the direct marketing company. Companies that had products that would not otherwise sell without a deep insight into the ability of the oblique product to deliver, such as exercise equipment, tummy trimmers, nose-hair trimmers and certainly aphrodisiacs and bust and butt-enhancers alike, sought out television slots. Channels were only too glad to offer slots that had just no takers otherwise. This was therefore a win-win situation for both the direct marketing company and the channel.

I do believe we will see a lot more of these around. There will be a polarization of players. At one end you will have global players with superior products and at another we will have the local players with inferior street-side products. You will have high-end under-eye wrinkle remover gels rubbing shoulders with Rudraksh beads from the Himalayas. And then, in will step regulation. Regulation that will want restraint. Alok, till then, enjoy the experience.

Q: How important do you rate branding in India? Have we arrived?
-Priya Ganpule, Mumbai

A: Priya, India is emerging to be a brand conscious country. From a generation that grew up with commodities in every sphere, today's Indian, particularly the urban Indian, is a brand-besotted animal. At times this besotted-ness is not even acknowledged. Instead, brands have become a part of the subliminal DNA of consumption today. Young adults in particular are totally wound up by brands. Brands turn them on, equally as brands that do not perform turn them off. Brands have become part of the social economy we live and thrive in today.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

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